7 Tricks To Spice Up Your To Do List

Summary – To-Do List equals Prioritize & Results
I’m sure everyone can agree that one of the best tools for productivity is the To-Do list. All productivity gurus recommend it. In fact, it is considered as the foundation of productivity by some. Generally, a To-Do list is a system in which you will list down all the tasks needed to be done. Once a task is completed, it will be written off from the list. It’s as simple as that.

However do you know that To-Do list can be further improved to maximize productivity? Here are 7 tricks I personally implement that you might find useful.

1) Write this sentence at the top of your To-Do list

“It is never about how many left, it is about how many accomplished”

How many times have you been so happy that you have completed a lot of the tasks listed, but by the time you are about to celebrate, another set of tasks occupy the list. If your focus everyday is to clear that list, you will be frustrated everyday.

That is why it is always better to focus on the number of tasks completed instead of number of tasks left on the list. Believe me, it will make a lot of difference in our motivation level once our perception on the concept of a To-Do list changed.

2) Keep a record (The Done List)

Based on the same philosophy, I would recommend you to keep a record of the tasks completed. Make another list if you can – The Done list. Any tasks you have written off from your To-Do list, put them in this list. This list will serve as a reminder to you that you can be productive if you want. It will also help boost that declining motivation almost immediately.

If motivation is not a problem to you, at least take pride in your work. You deserve it.

3) Set points and its corresponding rewards

This tip is actually one of my favorites. I put points to all my tasks on the To-Do list. The most urgent tasks will be given 10 points, while the less important ones will be given 5 points. The tasks which are not important are given 0 points. Yes, Zero. I will tell you why shortly.

I will then set a target and its corresponding rewards. For example, if I ever reached 5000 points, I will treat myself with a one day leave. Of course you can make this more interesting by allowing further accumulation of the points. It’s your rule.

The reason I give the least important task a zero is because I have experimented before by giving it 1 points. I end up avoiding doing all the urgent tasks and just focus on these trivia tasks. That itself is an example of a To-Do list went wrong.

4) Make it ugly

I have a friend who actually decorate her To-Do list. She actually writes with such beautiful handwriting on a beautiful piece of paper. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the kind of paper I used to write love letter on. But that’s another story. In the end, her To-Do list is not getting any shorter and she is more stressful than ever.

I have nothing against beautifully written work. But for a To-Do list, I would recommend you to write with your worst handwriting ever (Of course it must be readable too). The whole purpose of a To-Do list is to cross the items off. By making it ugly, you are subconciously pushing yourself to finish the tasks as soon as possible. Who would want to have an ugly written list unchanged for a year?

5) Use paper with lines

I once used a whiteboard as my To-Do list. It was a bad idea. Since there was no lines to separate the tasks, I often just squeezed the new task in between the existing tasks. By the end of the day, the whiteboard was filled with incomprehensible words.

Use paper with lines for your To-Do list. Nothing is more frustrating that a board full of tasks but you can’t read it.

6) Make the list short

Now that you are using paper with lines, why not limit your To-Do list further by having only 10 tasks on each paper. It is very tempting to have a very long list. But the truth is, a short list is better in term of efficiency and simplicity. Here are a few additional reasons why a short list is always better.

  • Easy to scan through anytime.
  • Highlight the most important task immediately.
  • More satisfying when you write off a task.
  • Having completed one paper of tasks will give you an extra boost of motivation.
  • You are always eager to free up some space on your paper by completing the task.

A suggestion, go through your To-Do list and find tasks that can be delegated. Write that off. Now find other tasks that can just be eliminated. You should by now have reduced the length of your To-Do list by half. Congratulation!

7) Take three tasks out (Literally)

Remember your To-Do list with ten tasks? Now tear the top three tasks and immediately complete the tasks. Instead of crossing off tasks after you complete it, you are now doing it the other way around. If three tasks is too much, you can always choose just the one. It will help if the tasks torn are your most important tasks of the day.

There is only one rule to this technique. You must complete the task by all means. Once you allow yourself to procrastinate or rewrite the tasks again tomorrow, it will immediately become a habit. You don’t want that.

/end list


There are so many ways you can improve your To-Do list, but it will not work if you don’t understand the fundamental of a To-Do list. A To-Do list is meant to help you prioritize which tasks are more important. The list will also be useless if you avoid completing all the tasks.

– I Wonder –
Any other tricks you might want to share with the rest of the readers?

———– Personal Note ————-
My first computer got infected by virus almost monthly. I could put up with a virus that shows funny message once in a while, but this virus slowed my computer to a near halt. As a result, I formatted my computer every month. Fortunately, I had prepared a To-Do list on the steps to be taken immediately after a computer format. The list contained what softwares to install, what were the settings etc. Ah the good times.

Photo Credit – Purpleslog

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This post has 6 comments.

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  1. 16 Feb 09 9:46 pm

    making the list ugly is the best part i like in this post.It really make sense to do that.never thought of that.

    anyway,i like this tips!

  2. banji
    17 Feb 09 1:30 am

    Aidil – Subconcious mind is really a powerful tool for us. Let say for example, a mess on a table always makes you uncomfortable, that means subconciously you don’t like a mess. Perhaps then you can try make a mess out of your unfinished work purposely. If you play your card right, the subconcious mind will help give you a little push motivation wise to clear everything up

    Glad that you like them 🙂

  3. 01 Mar 09 3:47 am

    #7 is my favorite!
    Accomplishing stuff is the way to go.
    I also sweep my lists and drop less relevant stuff – literally, delete for good. Less clutter, more focus, mare chance to accomplish real stuff that actually matters

  4. 01 Mar 09 6:59 pm

    Alik Levin – It is my favorite too. Ultimately we want to get the items on the list done, and that has been one of the most effective way.

  5. […] 7 Tricks to Spice Up Your TO DO List @ Lesson in Life […]

  6. Catherine
    15 Sep 11 1:31 am

    I like to tick my done items on a list n put asterix on the undone items.
    keeps me really organised n i dont have to spend time thinking about stuff I have to do.

    i write in italics too,seems fast that way.lol

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